International students – critical incidents, homestay issues and supporting mental wellbeing

This page was updated on 11 May 2020, 3:00pm

In the first instance, schools should check the following websites for information:

COVID-19 – Ministry of Health (external link)

Unite against COVID-19 - covid19.govt.nz (external link)

The COVID-19 response has changed the education and experience for international students, and many may be finding the situation challenging. Schools should ensure that students and their residential caregivers have the additional support they may need.

Check out our information on various emergency situations for general advice on responses before, during, and after an emergency:

Emergencies and traumatic incidents  (external link)

Communicating with international students

Schools should be keeping in regular contact with all international students, and in more frequent contact with students who they feel may be at risk (due to health concerns, accommodation issues or other concerns).

Schools should have clear and regular lines of communication established with students’ natural parents (including interpretation / translation if needed). Parents must be informed of any situation where a student may need to change accommodation, and where possible they and the student should be involved in the discussion about alternative accommodation.

Supporting mental wellbeing during lockdown

The lockdown and broader Covid-19 pandemic is likely to be stressful for many students and host families.

The Government’s Covid-19 Looking after your mental wellbeing  (external link)  page include ideas to support mental wellbeing during lockdown. The sparklers  (external link)  link is aimed specifically at people caring for children during lockdown

For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, students and/or homestay familes can call or text 1737 – free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – to talk with a trained counsellor. 

Mental wellbeing support for young people:

Guidance on responding to pastoral care issues that arise during lockdown

If you become aware that the student is:

  • at immediate or imminent risk of sexual, physical or psychological harm
  • otherwise seriously unsafe, or
  • a danger to themselves or others,

You must immediately phone 111 and inform Police of the situation.

Following guidance from Police, you should contact the Regional Office for further advice, including support to move the student to alternative accommodation.

You must also ensure that the student has access to any additional support required, for example medical support, Guidance Counsellor / external counselling support, or the mental health Crisis Assessment Team (as appropriate).

The COVID-19 website includes further information for people experiencing sexual and physical abuse during lockdown.

Family violence and sexual violence prevention – covid19.govt.nz  (external link)

If a student or caregiver contracts Covid-19

For Covid-19 health advice and information, go to the Ministry of Health website.

Ministry of Health – Covid-19  (external link)

If someone is experiencing symptoms, contact the Healthline team on 0800 358 5453.

For general guidance on what to do if someone in your household has Covid-19 please refer to the Covid-19 website on self-isolation.

Covid-19 – self-isolation advice if you’re unwell  (external link)

If a caregiver (homestay parent or natural parent) or student tests positive for Covid-19 and shows mild symptoms:

  • All those in the bubble must self-isolate, following guidance from health authorities
  • They may not undertake essential travel and must remain in self-isolation
  • The school should maintain regular communication with the affected family and support the student’s wellbeing if required by:
  • Dropping off essential supplies following the guidance on the Covid 19 website
  • Supporting them with social engagement
  • NOTE: Health authorities will monitor and advise of any further action.

If a residential caregiver (homestay parent or natural parent) tests positive for Covid-19 and is hospitalised:

  • Where a residential caregiver is hospitalised, the remainder of the bubble must self-isolate, following guidance from health authorities.
  • The school should maintain regular communication with the affected family and support the student’s wellbeing if required by:
  • Dropping off essential supplies following the guidance on the Covid 19 website
  • Supporting them with social engagement
  • If there is no other suitable adult within the bubble to take on the role of residential caregiver, contact the Regional Office for further advice on moving the student to alternative accommodation
  • NOTE: Health authorities will monitor and advise of any further action.

If a student tests positive for Covid-19 and is hospitalised:

  • The remainder of the bubble must self-isolate, following guidance from health authorities.
  • You should continue to support the student (for example, regular phone calls if this is possible) and their homestay family.
  • If the residential caregiver is unable to care for the student when they are discharged, contact the Regional Office for further advice on moving the student to alternative accommodation.
  • NOTE: Health authorities will monitor and advise of any further action.

If the student suffers illness or injury:

  • The residential caregiver / school should call 111, the student’s GP, or Healthline (as they would under normal circumstances).
  • They should then follow the advice of health authorities.
  • If the student suffers a critical incident the school must follow the usual critical incident processes. This should include contacting the Regional Office for further support.
  • The school must also advise the Code team at NZQA: code.enquiries@nzqa.govt.nz

Guidance on responding to accommodation issues that arise during the Covid-19 response

At Alert Levels 3 and 4, everyone must stay home and in their self-isolation bubble. This includes international students, who must stay in their current accommodation. 

The only exceptions to this MAY be in the following situations:

  • The student or the student’s accommodation is unsafe
  • Covid-19 infection (student or homestay family)
  • The residential caregiver becomes unable to care for student
  • Serious illness or injury.

Schools should have a list of alternative emergency accommodation options and be prepared to act quickly if necessary. 

If the residential caregiver becomes unable to look after the student:

  • Assess any risk of harm from psychological, physical or sexual abuse.
  • Where harm is suspected, call the Police on 111 and notify the Regional Office.

Where no harm is suspected:

if there is another adult in the ‘bubble’ who is able take on the role of residential caregiver/primary carer, the student should remain where they are. If the person who takes on the role of residential caregiver does not usually live in the household, and/or has not been vetted in accordance with the Code of Practice, this person must be vetted including a police vet.

If an urgent Police vet is needed schools can use the code “HOMESTAY URGENT” in the Police vetting request.

If there is no other suitable adult within the bubble to take on the role of residential caregiver, contact the Regional Office for further advice on moving the student to alternative accommodation.

The student wants to move to another homestay

If an international student is unhappy and wants to be moved to another homestay family:

Assess any risk of harm from psychological, physical or sexual abuse.

Where harm is suspected, call the Police on 111 and notify the Regional Office.

Where no harm is suspected:

  • discuss that during lockdown, relationship problems will arise because people are confined and under stress, and this is to be expected
  • counsel the student that moving to another host family is against the Level 4 restrictions, will put people at risk and is not an immediate option (but that this can be considered at a later stage, if appropriate)
  • reiterate that these are unique times and we all have an increased duty to be flexible, helpful and work together to ensure lockdown is effective and ends as soon as possible.
  • support the student and host family with problem-solving approaches and cultural competence where appropriate
  • provide resources to both the family and student to assist in rebuilding the relationship, such as the links to mental health support listed below
  • DO NOT move the student to another homestay.

Where the above steps do not resolve the situation and it breaks down further:

  • If the student is not considered to be unsafe the school should continue to support the host family using the support systems listed above, reiterating that there will be an opportunity to change the living situation once the lockdown is over
  • Contact the Regional Office for further advice
  • Where appropriate, involve the Police where appropriate and advise them that there is a situation that may jeopardise lockdown requirements 

If an international student breaks lockdown and leaves the homestay for a period of time

  • Contact the Police on 111 - Police deal with any situation where a student leaves their bubble. School staff and homestay families should not leave their bubble to locate a student.
  • When located, Police will return the student to the accommodation. You should assess any risk of harm from psychological, physical or sexual abuse.
  • Where harm is suspected, discuss with Police and notify the Regional Office
  • Where no harm is suspected, counsel the student to remain in their accommodation (see the suggestions above), and establish an agreement for future conduct.
  • If it is not appropriate for the student to return to their accommodation, discuss with Police and contact the Regional Office for advice on moving the student to alternative accommodation.
  • Ensure that the student has access to any additional support they may need. 

Where an emergency results in Police involvement:          

  • The school will support Police, who will lead arrangements and communication.
  • Students removed from a homestay by Police will be placed in alternative care arranged in consultation with the school and Ministry of Education Regional Office. Where no school-led alternative is available, Police will liaise with other agencies to find suitable accommodation.

If you need to provide alternative accommodation:

  • You must ensure that it meets all the requirements in the Code of Practice. If an urgent Police vet is needed schools can use the code “HOMESTAY URGENT” in the Police vetting request.
  • Unless there are no other options, students should not be moved to accommodation shared with anyone who is at high-risk for covid-19 (over 70 or with existing health issues), or essential workers. This is to protect both the homestay family and the student.

Changes to alert levels

At Alert Level 4, students should remain in their current bubble and can only move to alternative accommodation in exceptional circumstances (immediate or imminent risk of harm). 

At Alert Level 3, students should remain in their current bubble wherever possible. However, you may consider moving students if:

  • the relationship between the student and homestay family has significantly deteriorated (and not improved with guidance)
  • you believe that the student is likely to become at risk of harm if they are not moved
  • the homestay family circumstances have changed significantly and they no longer feel able to host

Unless there are no other options, students should not be moved to accommodation shared with anyone who is at high-risk for covid-19 (over 70 or with existing health issues), or essential workers. This is to protect both the homestay family and the student. 

At Alert Level 2, you may consider moving students using the same criteria that you usually would for assessing whether a move is necessary. However, students should not be moved to accommodation shared with anyone who is at high-risk for covid-19 (over 70 or with existing health issues). These moves do not require approval from the Regional Office.

Emergency contacts

  • The school principal or other member of the senior leadership team: International staff should engage school leadership in any emergency situation that may arise. This should be done remotely.
  • Ministry of Education Regional Office: Each school has an MoE liaison person who is on call. Your principal will have the contact for your school’s liaison and they should be brought in when emergency accommodation situations arise. Contact our local offices  (external link)  
  • Police: Emergencies that lead to a breach of lockdown are a Police matter. For Police support where students are at immediate risk of harm, use the 111 number. For Police support in other situations, use the 105 number. Where necessary, Police may engage in person.
  • Health Line: 0800 358 5453 (Covid-19) and 0800 611 116 (general) - where students become ill or their host families become ill, schools must contact the Healthline and health authorities will lead school staff on next steps.
  • Crisis Assessment Teams (CAT): Mental health crisis assessment teams around the regions, for emergencies only: Crisis Assessment Teams (CAT teams) – Ministry of Health  (external link)

   

 

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